Updated 5.45pm, adds Daphne Foundation statement
Robert Abela on Sunday brushed off revelations about how a web of public officials identified the names of people who should be favoured during the driving licence process.
Addressing a Labour event, the prime minister defended Foreign Minister Ian Borg and government customer care officials who engaged in the practice.
One of those officials, Ray Mizzi, who worked in Abela’s office, linked the process to winning votes.
The prime minister however dismissed Times of Malta’s revelations as “recycled”.
Abela said the authorities had already investigated the case and acted on “alleged irregularities”.
Last year, Transport Malta’s former director of licensing Clint Mansueto and two low-level clerks were charged with corruption. All three deny wrongdoing.
Abela heaped praise on customer officials who do their utmost to help people.
“Should we stop our primary function of helping people… should I stop answering my phone,” Abela questioned.
Abela said if anything, he is disappointed at the fact that more remains to be done when it comes to helping people.
“Ian Borg was just doing his job. Shall I tell him to stop doing his job,” Abela asked.
Abela praised Borg’s work as Foreign Minister and turned his guns on the Opposition.
He said people from all political hues ask for assistance, including PN MPs.
The prime minister said PN MP Beppe Fenech Adami was one of those who sought Borg’s help.
In a reference to lawyer Joe Giglio, Abela pointed out that a PN MP is defending one of the Transport Malta officials accused in court.
WhatsApp chats obtained by Times of Malta show minister Borg, his canvasser Jesmond Zammit, and his ministry personnel regularly piled pressure on Mansueto to "help" selected candidates.
Hundreds of candidates were given to Mansueto to have their tests fast-tracked and even for "help" to secure a driving licence.
Chats show how some candidates would be advised not to allow their driving instructor to be present in the car during the practical exam, to facilitate the scheme.
The chats reveal a litany of requests to help prospective drivers, from an "opm vvip client" to candidates whose driving skills appeared to leave much to be desired.
Rachel Debono, Abela's personal assistant, is one of those who engaged in the practice during her time as a Transport Malta official.
Daphne Foundation statement
In a statement, the Daphne Foundation said no one should buy the Government's explanation that this is about helping people.
Politicians, it said, were keeping dysfunctional public services in place so as to cultivate dependency on their political party.
"People should not have to trade their vote, their values, and their dignity for a driving licence," it said.
It said that Ian Borg’s role as chief of the illegal scheme made his position as foreign minister untenable.
"The evidence shows that, as Minister for Transport, he corrupted one of the country's most critical authorities, Transport Malta, from top-to-bottom, turning the organisation into one that serves the private interests of party men instead of the Maltese public.
"Someone responsible for such an extensive trading-in-influence racket, and who in his statements makes clear that he sees nothing wrong with it, cannot represent Malta in international fora where the fight against corruption and organised crime is a top priority."
People involved in this scheme and similar ones should contact the foundation or a journalist they trusted in confidence, it said.